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While visiting family friends last Saturday, eight-year-old Noam Michaeli - who moved with her parents to Nitzan shortly before the beginning of the disengagement - put on an improvised puppet show for the benefit of the younger children.
"She had found a clown and was manipulating the strings," her mother, Na'ama Michaeli, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
When one of the children told the clown to go home, Noam's mother said, Noam replied for the clown, "I have no home. I look like a happy clown, but I have no home to go back to."
Angry at what they describe as the Education Ministry's failure to accommodate the basic schooling needs of their children as well as their deeper emotional needs following the disengagement, parents in Nitzan demonstrated on Monday morning and went on strike to protest the conditions in the schools, pre-schools, and day care facilities their children attend both in Nitzan and in the surrounding area.
As a result, none of the children residing in Nitzan attended school on Monday. According to David Michaeli, head of Nitzan's education committee, children attending the Ne'ot Katif school in Shafir have not attended school since last Wednesday.
Following a meeting Monday afternoon with representatives of the Education Ministry, the parents decided to terminate the strike.
"These children could not concentrate on their studies last year. After the trauma they suffered, they need extra care, and right now they are not receiving even the minimum needed by any regular child. We're talking about three months after the beginning of the school year, and the wounds are only going to get worse." According to David Michaeli, Noam's father, there is currently no organized school bus station in Nitzan, and the bus schedules are erratic. Although transportation to and from school is the responsibility of the local municipality and of the Transportation Ministry, Michaeli told the Post that the Education Ministry should have intervened to facilitate proper transportation.
In addition, Michaeli told the Post that there was an insufficient number of psychological school counselors and of teachers in the schools attended by children from Nitzan.
In a letter sent to, among others, Education Ministry director Ronit Tirosh Michaeli also noted the lack of sufficient numbers of teachers to tend to children with special education needs, and the lack of basic equipment such as tables, chairs, and computers.
According to Michaeli, day care facilities for children under the age of three are also glaringly inadequate. He said that there is currently one day care center in a prefabricated home that accommodates 33 children. An equal number of children in the 0-3 age group are currently without day care, making it difficult for their parents to work. In addition, Michaeli said there were inadequate security facilities at Nitzan's kindergartens and pre-schools.
On Sunday, MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) sent a letter to Education Minister Limor Livnat and demanded that the Education Ministry take steps to resolve what Nitzan residents describe as an education crisis. Orlev also attended Monday morning's demonstration.
"Rather than working to rehabilitate the children whose houses were destroyed, the government is neglecting their schooling and causing them additional trauma," Orlev wrote.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union), who is also supporting the struggle of parents in Nitzan, told the Post that when examining the schooling situation in Nitzan one must also take into consideration that many of the children are also suffering from scholastic gaps created during the months prior to disengagement.
Following the meeting with the Education Ministry Monday afternoon, Michaeli said the Nitzan education committee had decided to stop the strike because it had reached an agreement with the Ministry on the creation of a special team that will work to resolve the problems raised.
According to an Education Ministry spokeswoman, the Ministry has closely examined the situation in the schools in question. The Ministry has rejected most of the claims made by Nitzan residents concerning inadequate equipment and staffs.
"While some of their complaints were justified, we do not think that they justified a strike, or that they required preventing children from going to school," the Ministry spokesperson said.